Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tango:: Fandango de Tango - Day Three - Friday

Last night’s (Friday) milonga was scheduled from 9:00pm until 3:00am. At around midnight, I estimated about 200-250 dancers in attendance. At 12:40am at least 50% of them had left – possibly more. Everyone was complaining about the DJ’ing. I can’t recall the guy’s name, and I wouldn’t go so far as to name him here – but he was all over the map.

Just like Thursday night, there was a Nuevo/Alt-Tango tanda played at around 11pm. Then another salsa tanda played shortly thereafter – just like Thursday. I was sitting and chatting with LP, a woman who splits her time between Austin and BsAs, and mentioned this to her – that I couldn’t believe it. She was out of the room when it happened – but she was just as amazed as I was – and immediately told her male friend about it – in a “you won’t believe this” tone.

This guy broke every codigo in the book - he played three song tandas, four song tandas, played danceable cortinas, mixed the format playing vals just after milonga (as my buddy R noted), after sticking to a fairly defined T-T-V-T-T-M format. He played a lot of what I call “off” orchestras – perhaps more modern stuff like Las Solistas, Sexteto Arranque or something – stuff most people had never heard and was borderline danceable. Mixing orchestras within a tanda. Throwing in a Nuevo/Alt song to start a tanda, then switching to Traditional. Talk about mass confusion. There was an undertone in the room of “let’s see what he’s going to play now”. And it showed. People simply left. On a Friday night – a six hour milonga scheduled until 3am –at 2am there were twelve couples on the dance floor. I left at 2:30.

If a man/leader wants to dance a vals tanda with a particular follower – what is he (or she) to do when the format is like a tsunami just hit? What’s a man to do?

Everyone who knows me – and knows my DJ’ing – was grumbling about the other guy – and talking revolt – that they wanted me to take over – asking if I had my computer and stuff with me. I said, yes, that every good DJ comes prepared to take over if the DJ has a heart attack (God forbid) or an Immodium AD moment. I joked that I could tap into his system with my wireless rig – and discreetly take over the evening from a table the corner – and he could still sit there and take all the credit – and thereby save face. A joke of course. It could never happen – a DJ replacement in the middle of a milonga – the problem would have to be very serious indeed. It would be similar to switching dancers in the middle of a tanda – a really, really big no-no.

I suppose it might be time for me to starting thinking about festival DJ'ing...or at least taking some steps in that direction.

Perfect segue to Alex’s big screw up of the night. BIG. In the three song and four song tanda confusion – I thank you’d a very good follower from Dallas after the third song. The beginning of the fourth song – not being Trad – sounded like a cortina to me. I walked her back to her table – and she promptly walked over to another table/guy – and walked back out on the dance floor to dance the fourth song. She was within her rights to do this – it was my screw up – but when I realized what had just happened, I was terribly embarrassed. I tried to get to her again to apologize and explain – but couldn’t find an opportunity. Tonight. I will do it tonight.

Given the sucky DJ’ing, the evening was overall, very good. I wouldn’t say it was a bad milonga because of it – it was actually a “very good” milonga if you ask me. A buddy of mine used to say “even bad sex is good sex”. If the DJ’ing is “off”, the end result – dancing tango and socializing – good dances and not-so-good dances – is most definitely – “a good thing”. Remember Martha Stewart’s (probably trademarked) thing she would say at the end of a segment topic? She would always say “It’s a good thing!” in her most excited Martha Stewart tone/timbre. Now, how the F did I get from bad DJ’ing, to good tango, to Martha frickin’ Stewart?

I forgot to mention in my prior posts that the floor sucks. A “Homemade” system (versus manufactured) sheets of varnished maple plywood laid on a 2x4 grid foundation. The plywood is great – the foundation is great – the problem is the seams – some as large as ½” – and not all are level or plane out smoothly. Women (and men) are catching their heels. Not a huge problem – but a top notch dance floor system would make the experience that much better.

My last bitch, I promise. There were some idiots dancing the basic eight count last night, back step and all, over and over again. There then there were the jokers dancing backwards against the line of dance. And the guys who dance right up behind you - tailgaters. And the three lanes weren't working well last night - loose to non-existent. The floor was clearing well during cortinas - very well - only one or two couples remaining on the floor - probably from more experienced dancers showing up.

In the past, at milongas, I have a bad habit of dancing primarily with women I have danced with before. Usually, I would dance with one or two of what a buddy and I call (tongue deeply in cheek) “strange women”. Not that they are “strange”, but just that they are strangers to us.

In Austin, they are all (almost) strangers. This is nice to get me out of my comfort zone and asking more women to dance – more variety. It was nice to be cabeceo’d by women for a change – being the new guy. When a woman is somewhat overt about wanting to dance with me – especially if she smiles or even says hi – that is a huge signal for me. An open door so to speak. But, my preference is to only dance with women I have seen actually dancing on the floor. I need to know how tall they are – and their general level of dancing before I will approach them.

I still have issues (personal/internal) with reverting to the basics with new women – especially on a crowded floor. I don’t feel comfortable stepping out (pun intended) into more advanced stuff until I feel a really good connection. I try little baby steps towards more “stuff” - advanced changes of direction, volcadas on the close side - to test a follower’s range. If she doesn’t get something, generally I back off to the basics. Sometimes, depending on the follower and the floor, I will try it again to give her the benefit of the doubt. The goal is to gradually build upon vocabulary with a particular follower – and keep her safe – and having fun.

My “basics” are a vocabulary of five or six things (not all in one dance), with some variation – like a couple of different variations on the ocho cortado. I have been focusing on enriching my walk recently. Sometimes I am tempted to dance an entire dance with only the walk and the embrace and the connection. This is based on Jaimes Freidgen’s teachings that the old milongueros “do” only 5 things in a dance to any one song – any more gets confusing and “busy”. And that if you do them very, very well, you can get by on only three.

They were good dances overall for me last night – a few very good – good connections – a few “okay” – not so good connections. I find that if the connection is good, it doesn’t matter if the tango is not so good. I would rather have “lesser” tango and better connection, than “greater” tango and lesser connection. I think.

A woman from the Pacific Northwest – who I first assumed to be an experienced dancer – danced a milonga tanda with me. She had said earlier in the evening that she didn’t like milonga and didn’t really get it. I told her that everything would be okay, and that I would help her “get it”. She did just fine – very well in fact - although superfast traspie was out of the question – as it is with most followers. Stopping after the first song, she admitted to me that she was only a beginner, and said something complimentary about me and the dance. She was blushing. Blushing from the dance I think. That’s a first for me. Especially for dancing a milonga.

There were half a dozen others – I danced more than I usually do. But there were still five or six women that I wanted to dance with, but couldn’t. I didn't get to dance with the future French Astronaut [double PhD's in plasma & particle physics] or the cancer researcher. At one point, I walked up to one woman to ask her to dance, and she got snatched up, as did number two, and then number three, right before my eyes. You lose.

I went up to ask a friend to dance but she said her feet hurt and she was resting. I then turned to another friend sitting next to her and asked her. She began to rib me about that – “going down the line” (which I never do) as she called it. She danced with me anyway – and punished me with a lazy and heavy follow. I will make sure to never make that mistake again. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 need to be in different parts of the room – never sitting next to each other or even at adjacent tables. I think I knew this (but not doing much asking in the past) – I need to be more cognizant of it from now on. I also noticed that Friend 1 was up dancing with another lead – ouch. It’s a good thing that I know her and that she didn’t mean anything by it – otherwise it might hurt a little more.

I could go on, but this post is too long already. I will try to digest everything and post significant topics in the future.

Overall, it was fun – very fun. Some dancing, some socializing, good dances, okay dances. Comme il faut…

1 comment:

tangobaby said...

Some dork did that to me last night: "going down the line."

Of course I said no. What am I, chopped liver?!

at least you knew better. I don't think this other guy had a clue.